About the Colony

Substance abuse deaths spur community discussion

During graduation week in June 1957, my classmates and I were shown a movie dealing with the horrors of getting into drugs — focusing on marijuana and heroin. Walking back to class, the conversation among us was, “Why did they show us that?” “Who would be stupid enough to use drugs?” Nobody thought it would apply to any of us.

Growing up with an alcoholic mother, I saw firsthand the terrible effects of substance abuse.

I’ve followed the war on drugs over the past 30 years and pretty much concluded we are losing the battle. But I don’t want to give up the fight.

During the past few months, Atascadero has lost two young people because of substance abuse.

Those losses have led to a movement by a group of local citizens to hold a town hall-style meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Ewing Gymnasium up on high school hill.

Called Lighthouse, the program is dedicated to overcoming addiction through awareness, prevention and intervention. One of the people behind this newest effort is Donn Clickard. When I expressed my concerns about just another attempt at reducing drug abuse, Donn said what makes this effort different is that “we admit there is a problem.”

You can learn more about this effort by attending Wednesday’s meeting. Lighthouse is being co-sponsored by the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation, Atascadero Unified School District, Atascadero Police Department and The Link, a youth support organization. As the name signifies, this is a program to shine light where needed and protect and warn potential abusers from dangerous waters.

Lighthouse board members include Donn Clickard (chair), Charlene Ables, Wayne Cooper, Doug Filipponi, Rick Johansen, Rolfe Nelson, David Rodgers, Julia Renzaglia, Joanne Peters, Blaise Smith and Jim Stecher.

Atascadero citizens have a long history of getting the job done. Community action has resulted in such projects as the athletic field at the high school, Paloma Creek Park, the equestrian arena next to that park and improvements to Atascadero Lake Park.

Now the focus will be on raising awareness of substance abuse, which becomes a problem not only for the abuser, but also for family, friends and eventually the entire community.

Help will be needed in a number of ways, from being a mentor to making a monetary donation.

The group’s mission statement says it best: “We are on a very powerful mission to help save all the kids that may become or are at risk from the destructive elements that they are faced with each and every day. With your help toward this mission, we promise that this fight has just begun.”

For more details, call Clickard at 712-6365 or D.J. Pittenger at 391-3042.

Reach Lon Allan at leallan@tcsn.net.